Microsoft Customer Service Calls Back 10 Years Later

On 1/8/08, 10 years after he placed a call to Microsoft tech support, they called Brian back to see if his problem had been resolved. Are they just that backed up? Latent Y2K error? Phishing attempt? The truth is much more banal, and potentially, more frightening. See if you can figure out the solution before continuing on to the answer…

Here’s what happened. The original call was placed on January 7th, 1998. The rep meant to put in a note to have someone call Brian back the next day, but instead of typing “1/8/98” they probably typed “1/8/08.” Most likely because 9 and 0 are right next to each other on the computer keyboard and their finger slipped. The result? A followup call a decade late!

Imagine all sorts of the fun mistakes customer service reps can make just by mess up one digit….

Microsoft Y2K bug circa 1998? [BIC’s Bickerings]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. jrembold says:

    better than never at all i suppose.

  2. Now what would have happened if he typed in a 8 instead of a 9 or 0?

  3. hubris says:

    Or leaving off an entire suffix!

    Sadly, I’ve seen stuff like this happen. I’m sure MS has automated tools that won’t even show the case until the time specified, but if someone did look at it, wouldn’t you think common sense would rear its ugly head? Right…MS…nevermind…

  4. Sherryness says:

    So had they fixed his problem? LOL I wonder if he even remembers what the problem was. Interesting that they have the same system in place 10 years later, as evidenced by the prompt for a follow-up call. Maybe they should upgrade!

  5. homerjay says:

    When Apple replaced my Powerbook a couple years ago, they screwed up one digit in the serial number when they transferred it over to the new computer. It wasn’t quite as fun to figure out and resolve as this seems to be.

  6. Buran says:

    @homerjay: I still have, somewhere, a burned CD with their SN transfer utility on it that they left in the drive when I got a G5 back from service. I considered calling the store and giving it back but considering it was a burned disk I figured they had half a dozen more copies, and tossed it into my “random junk CDs that I may someday have a use for… someday” pile.

    Probably would have been useful to you! I never did anything with it in the end, though I’m sure mischief could have abounded.

  7. Buran says:

    @Sherryness: It’s probably running on Windows 95.

  8. trrwilson says:

    This is, in a perverse way, a testament to the integrity of Microsoft’s problem tracking system.

  9. PatrickIs2Smart says:

    But hey… at least they made a follow-up call that was initially ‘promised’ to the customer. It’s not often that happens…

  10. friedfish says:

    I just used the Microsoft Executive information that the Consumerist provided…IT WORKS! I recieved a very prompt reply and am currently being walked through a solution. Consumerist rules!

  11. DelosWorld says:

    At least there wasn’t a problem related to Y2K.

    Or was there?

  12. Colin says:

    @Sherryness: It wouldn’t have to be the same system. There IS such a concept of transferring ones data to a new system when upgrading.

  13. jibbly says:

    If the customer service rep was typing on a standard keyboard using the number pad the “0” and “9” are on very far away from each other. Since most experienced typists use the num pad to input digits, I’m going to say that either the rep was a complete newbie or this story is BS.

  14. hi says:

    “Now what would have happened if he typed in a 8 instead of a 9 or 0?”

    That would have created a rift in time.

  15. dwhicks01 says:

    Why does everyone assume it’s the same system, I am betting it’s a new system with the same data.

    WOW imagine people actually keep historic data for reference!

    Truely a testament to good record-keeping, although this may mean they have a file on everyone with everything you have ever done on a Microsoft product, now that would be awesome (scary?).

  16. Antediluvian says:

    Actually, I’m impressed, like others here, that MS did place the followup call. Yes, it’s bad they didn’t do it when they should have, but it makes for a wicked neat story.

  17. Squot says:

    @jibbly: I’m an experienced typist. I type (roughly) 85wpm. I use the non-numpad numbers for things like dates and numbers (5 apples), but not for things longer then three digits- IE I would have used the top for 01/04/08 , but not if I typed 2008.

    So since I’m not a complete newbie (I’ve been using computers since I was six, I’m now 23), and I’ve worked 4 customer service jobs that used computers, this isn’t necessarily BS.

  18. ffmusicdj says:

    Hahahahahaha, Wow, very amusing!

  19. That friggin ROCKS.

  20. Munsoned says:

    Justice delayed is justice denied.

  21. gizmodohomepage says:

    I’d say it was my business computer and sue for loss of potential revenue, let’s see, I was making $10,000 a month back in 98, so umm….

  22. smitty1123 says:

    Hope they finally got that whole cup holder thing worked out…

  23. Wow, they make Blizzard Tech Support look bad… oh wait…

  24. dwneylonsr says:

    Probably to let him know the fix would be in the next release.

  25. inno says:

    And let’s not forget the emotional anguish of waiting yearningly by the phone all those years…

  26. Parker. A says:

    My hat is off to the tech that made the call. How do you not just scratch the record.

  27. fred0204 says:

    I work at a telecom company that uses work tickets like that. We can set callback dates, but we also monitor the queues to make sure no ticket has gone more than 24 hours without at least an update if not resolution. I don’t know how a ticket could go 10 years without anyone noticing it.

  28. Optimus says:

    @c.bartlett: We’re talking about Microshaft here. They would have to have hand copy or reset their database like 3 times due to incompatible forced upgrades by now.

  29. Aphex242 says:

    @Sherryness: It’s probably not the same system, it’s undoubtedly been migrated to new platforms. For obvious reasons, they don’t just ditch all the data in the old system, they import it across.

    Either way it’s pretty cringe-worthy that the system doesn’t do a routine check to see if a callback is within a 2-week timeframe or so.

  30. Morgan says:

    @jibbly: If he was supposed to type in ’01/08/98′, it’s not hard to have a mental hiccup and type ’01/08/08′ by accident, just repeating the 08, even if he was using the number pad.

  31. wesa says:

    I doubt it happened. A lot of the tech support for Microsoft was routed through third party vendors such as Keane who have since either lost the Microsoft contract or have gone under.

  32. AyeRoxor says:

    In jobs I’ve held as database administrator, i’ve regularly run “sanity checks” on data, making sure nothing is too far into the future or into the past. It’s very simple, and this shows that the “data custodian” for these databases is not doing their job.

  33. clevergecko says:

    I work with computers at work, and they are HORRIBLY out of date, but when I’m scheduling follow-ups for new hires, they can’t be more than 90 days from the current date. I find it hard to believe that no one set up a future date parameter in the MS system to prevent errors that can play negatively toward follow-up calls – something that is so critical to customer retention… but articles like this remind me why I upgraded to all Apple Computers a year ago, and why I plan to never return as a Microsoft customer.

  34. chrisgoh says:

    The system should have had an input edit in place to detect such a problem when it was being keyed in.

  35. kindall says:

    I’m an experienced typist, and I rarely use the numpad for anything. The typewriter I learned to type on didn’t have a numpad, and I never picked up the habit. It’s convenient not to have that habit when you’re using a laptop, too.

    So far as I can tell, the main purpose of the numpad is to make it less convenient to get to the mouse. If I could buy an affordable natural keyboard without a numpad, I’d reclaim that space.

  36. clankboomsteam says:

    I imagine the call wen’t something like this:

    Customer Service Rep: “So Brian, I see here that you’re running
    Windows 95. Have you considered upgrading to Windows 98, then to
    Windows ME, then to Windows 2000, then to Windows XP, then to Windows
    Vista? I’m guessing that this might be the root of your problem.”

    Brian: “Nope, I’ve done all that… over the years.”

    Customer Service Rep: “I see. I see… Well, perhaps it’s that
    you’re running a system with a 233MHz processor. Do you have a problem,
    say, playing ‘Diablo’ on your system?”

    Brian: “Yes, but not for the reasons you’re thinking.”

    And so on…

  37. nursetim says:

    Kind of like the last episode of Star Trek TNG.

  38. Rode2008 says:

    Remember the hysteria over Y2K?? Remember it was driven by an oversight because many date fields (the year) only accommodated 2 digits.

    Well, consider this. The fix (making a 4-digit year field) will also be short-lived. Consider what will happen when the year 10,000 hits (Y10K). The stupid bastards didn’t think of that and we’ll all be facing the same damned thing when it turns Y10K.

    I can’t go through another Y2K hysteria bout in the year 10,000. I think the programmers ought to start working on the problem now so we don’t have the panic we had for Y2K.

  39. Andrew says:

    @nursetim: Worf: “A highly localized distortion of the space-time continuum…”

  40. newspapersaredead says:

    Microsoft has customer service?!

  41. Unnamed Source says:

    @jibbly: No one with any real experience typing will waste time using the numeric pad to enter a date in a field they’re quickly blowing through.

  42. FromThisSoil says:

    That’s freaking hilarious!

    “Uhhh…excuse me? 1998? Windows ME? I’m on my 3rd computer since then…are you guys crazy?”

  43. James Marino says:

    Wasn’t this an episode of Journeyman?

    I miss the writers. Please come back.

  44. kufer says:

    This is pretty hard to wrap my head around. For one, any software or operating system issue that Brian had 10 years ago would be out of its product support life-cycle. So there would not be any support for his issue anymore. For two, case management programs change quite frequently, so there is no way that his original case would be still in a new system. I think that this is a little too strange to be real.

  45. axiomatic says:

    If this is Microsoft we are talking about then by tomorrow all of his PC’s should have had Windows Genuine Advantage lock him out of anything important to him and then Microsoft will send him a bill for 10 years of support on a now unsupported Windows ME.

    but I’m not bitter or anything…..

  46. SleepyQ says:

    Bullshit. I work in Microsoft Product Support Services and our internal tools do not have that long of a data retention. It is 6 months for most of the sensitive data and about 2-3 years for “archived” items.

    The author of this story is an dumbassidiot to think their readers are all idiots and stupid to believe this load of crap.

  47. HowardWhite says:

    What microsoft and other big companies take for granted are their customers and bloopers like these are what the small companies are counting on to get more customers, services like Live Chat are not only enabling them to get more leads but unlike these people(Dell MS etc) keep the customers